The Boeing 737 Max, which has been grounded for nearly 20 months following two crashes that killed a total of 346 people, is likely to be ungrounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by Nov. 18.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told Reuters that the agency was “in the final stages of reviewing proposed changes” the grounded aircraft and expects to complete the process in the “coming days.” A decision on approving the jet’s return to the skies is likely as early as Nov 18, the news agency reported.
“The FAA continues to engage with aviation authorities around the world as they prepare to validate our certification decision,” Dickson said. “Even though we are near the finish line, I will lift the grounding order only after our safety experts are satisfied that the aircraft meets certification standards.”
FAA approval does not guarantee that the aircraft will be cleared to fly in other parts of the globe be. While some regulatory agencies, including the European Union Aviation Safety (EASA) are satisfied with the safety measures that Boeing has introduced in the aircraft and are close to approving the plane’s return to service before the end of the year, China’s aviation body is yet to set a timetable for the plane’s return to service.
It will take some weeks after FAA approval for carriers to resume flying the aircraft. Airlines have to complete software updates introduced by Boeing and approved by FAA, as well as fresh pilot training, before they can schedule flights with the aircraft.
Although the FAA is yet to approve the aircraft’s return to service, American Airlines has already put the Boeing 737 Max back on its schedule for the end of December. The airline is set to use the aircraft on the New York LaGuardia-Miami International route from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4. The carrier is planning to introduce additional routes once the plane is officially certified.
The largest MAX operator, Southwest Airlines, isn’t in a rush to bring back the aircraft. The airline anticipates taking several months to comply with the FAA requirements and will not schedule flights on the aircraft until the second quarter of 2021.
The grounding of the aircraft has cost Boeing billions, affected its supply chain and also resulted in a loss of face after investigators faulted the plane maker for compromising on safety in its rush to build and sell the aircraft. The FAA also came in for a lot of criticism for weak oversight during the jet’s development.
Boeing, which stopped production of the beleaguered jet in December last year, has since resumed production but at a lower rate. It has also slashed thousands of jobs as it already has about 450 already-built 737 MAX planes in storage. Many carriers around the world have in recent months either cancelled orders or delayed the induction of new Max aircraft.
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